Services eventually ground to a halt after delays caused by signalling problems south of the station and a person being hit by a train near Streatham Common.
Network Rail lines in and out of the station were closed from 4.20pm to 5.05pm but the knock-on effects meant delays and cancellations continued throughout the evening.
Commuters vault over and burrow under the ticket gates at London Bridge station on Tuesday
Station bosses took the decision to lock the ticket gates leaving a gathering swell of thousands of stranded passengers.
British Transport Police (BTP) were called to the station to help manage the growing crowds though they were unable to prevent some passengers from clearing the gates out of frustration.
Twitter user The Blower’s Son uploaded images of the scenes, noting: “If you kettle 1000s of commuters through two small doors and lock down every single gate this happens #londonbridge.”
A combination of a person on the tracks and signalling problems saw delays and eventually cancelled services
He captioned a photograph of a man vaulting over the barriers: “This is what commuters are forced to do at London Bridge to get to platforms on time. Disgusting #londonbridge.”
A spokesman from Network Rail told Huffington Post UK that a queuing system was put in place soon after 5pm but with such a high number of people arriving at the station, the doors were temporarily closed on the advice of the BTP.
Network Rail’s route managing director for the south east Dave Ward, said: “I understand how difficult last night was for many of our passengers and they showed great patience and understanding in what was a very tough situation.
The police were called to the station to help manage crowd control
“The railway around south London is so busy that if one train is delayed by just one minute it will delay 17 other services as a result. That is why the Thameslink Programme is so important to the future of our railway.
“At peak time, the effect of closing the railway even for 45 minutes has massive effect and we have to manage our stations carefully to help get people home safely.
“We will as a matter of course be reviewing our plans and the events of last night to see what, if any, lessons can be learned.”
A Network Rail spokesman has apologised for the incident
Commuters were angry amid the chaos, with many expressing their rage on Twitter.
Abbey Tonbridge of Abbey Funerals said: “It’s a miracle that nobody was killed or seriously injured in the unforgiveable chaos at London Bridge station.”
Joe Kallas tweeted: "Avoid London Bridge like the plague. @SouthernRailUK you have outdone yourselves."
Meanwhile Gabriella Griffith tweeted: "London Bridge has reached peak chaos."
Services on Southern Rail were also severely delayed with many customers tweeting their outrage after being left unable to get home.
One angry traveller even tried to get her fellow passengers to sign a petition asking Southern Rail to improve their service.
Sachika Taniyama tweeted: "Can we all sign this? I pay £200 per month to this company @SouthernRailUK and all it brings is misery to my day."
Taniyama also tweeted a link to an e-petition demanding that Southern Rail "be held accountable for its rising fares and diminishing customer service, which cause misery to thousands of passengers daily".
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "This chaos must end now. The scenes at London Bridge last night were completely unacceptable.
"It is a disgrace that Network Rail and the train operating companies have failed once again to get a grip of the situation at London Bridge.
"The case for giving Londoners more control over their railways is overwhelming. I've been lobbying Government for that control for years.
"All sides need to stop bickering and start acting. That means two things. Network Rail and the train operators need to get a grip, lead and sort out these shocking scenes at London Bridge, and Government needs to act to devolve rail services to London."
A spokesman for Southern Rail UK said: "Unfortunately, a series of incidents including a person being struck by a train have affected evening peak services from London.
"Delays of up to 60 minutes, cancellations and short notice alterations to services have been experienced by our passengers for which we apologise.
"Our main focus is on getting everyone home and we are working hard on that at the moment."